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Judge Blocks Obama’s Orders on Immigration

BROWNSVILLE, Texas (CN) - A federal judge on Monday granted 26 Republican-controlled states an injunction against President Obama's executive orders on immigration.

U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen found the red states have standing to sue over executive actions Obama announced on Nov. 20, 2014, to allow certain undocumented immigrants to stay in the United States.

Defendants Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and top officials of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services are tasked with enforcing immigration laws. The states challenged Obama's decision to not deport, for the remainder of his term, undocumented people who have lived in the United States since Jan. 1, 2010, who pass background checks, and who entered as children or are parents of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents.

Those who qualify may be eligible to get a federal employment authorization card that includes their photograph, which would allow them to get a Social Security card and a state driver's license.

The states claim the directives violate the Constitution, which gives Congress sole discretion to make and enforce immigration laws.

The directives suspend immigration laws for around 4 million of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States.

The programs are known as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA).

Hanen's ruling focused on DAPA, which the Obama administration unveiled in November 2014, and not DACA, implemented in 2012 by former DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano.

Obama's November 2014 orders expanded the eligibility for DACA.

Hanen was persuaded by lead plaintiff Texas' argument that DAPA will allow 500,000 of the state's roughly 1.6 million undocumented residents to apply for driver's licenses, which will cost the state millions of dollars to process.

"Under current Texas law, applicants pay $24.00 to obtain a driver's license, leaving any remaining costs to be absorbed by the state," Hanen wrote in the 123-page ruling.

"If the majority of DAPA beneficiaries currently residing in Texas apply for a driver's license, it will cost the state $198.73 to process and issue each license, for a net loss of $174.73 per license."

The states claim the administration violated the Administrative Procedures Act, which forbids a federal judge from reviewing the actions of a federal agency "committed to agency discretion by law."

Hanen found that he has the right to hear the case because federal attorneys gave him no legal basis for the Obama administration's guidelines.

"The Government has pointed this Court to no law that gives the DHS such wide-reaching discretion to turn 4.3 million individuals from one day being illegally in the country to the next day having lawful presence," the ruling states.

Hanen also agreed with the red states' contention that although DAPA gives Department of Homeland Security employees authority to determine a person's eligibility for deferred deportation on a case-by-case basis, all those who meet the criteria will qualify.

"There is every indication, including express statements made by the Government, that DAPA will be implemented in the same fashion as DACA. No DACA application that has met the criteria has been denied based on an exercise of individualized discretion," Hanen said.

"Whether plaintiffs' or defendants' calculations are correct, it is clear that only 1-6% of applications have been denied at all, and all were denied for failure to meet the criteria (or 'rejected' for technical filing errors, errors in filling out the form or lying on the form, and failures to pay fees), or for fraud," Hanen wrote in a footnote.

In justifying his decision to grant a preliminary injunction against DAPA, Hanen found it best to block the policy directive before it takes effect, as the Obama administration planned to start accepting applications in May.

"Any subsequent ruling that finds DAPA unlawful after it is implemented would result in the States facing the substantially difficult-if not impossible-task of retracting any benefits or licenses already provided to DAPA beneficiaries. This genie would be impossible to put back into the bottle," Hanen said.

Hanen, who was nominated to the federal bench by President George W. Bush in 2002, has been critical of the Obama administration's immigration policies.

His ruling comes as the Republican-majority Congress is attempting to strip funding for DAPA from the Department of Homeland Security's proposed budget.

The agency's funding is set to expire Feb. 27 if Congress does not pass a budget.

The Obama administration said it will appeal Hanen's ruling to the 5th Circuit.

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